Saturday, December 14, 2013

Lessons Learned from my Parents

Walking hand in hand, as they've always done...
On this day in 1963, in Hendrina, South Africa, my mom and dad pledged to love one another. Fifty years later, they're still keeping that promise, and they've said many, many a time that over the years, their love for one another has just grown deeper. Here are a few things I learned from my parents:
  1. They taught us to love well. To this day, I have never seen or heard them argue! It doesn't mean they don't disagree, but they never, ever do so in front of others--not even their kids.
  2. They taught us to worship the One who loved us first. My parents' faith has always been important to them. They love God, and their love for one another, for us, and for others in their world truly flows from their love for God (and God's love for them).
  3. They taught us to pray. I remember as a child walking into my parents' bedroom with them  kneeling together in prayer. They can no longer kneel to pray, but they love to pray together and they do so faithfully, including for each of their kids and grand kids.
  4. They taught us that who you are in private should be the same as who you are in public. Not once have I thought "Oh, if only people would know what really goes on behind the scenes." Not as a child, nor as an adult. I remember my dad having to go to the UK for studies for months in 1981, and he shared how several of his colleagues on the same trip would visit strip clubs and more. "I could NEVER do that," he told us. "How would I be able to look you in the eyes after doing something like that?"
  5. They taught us to make do with what you have. We never had a lot of money nor a lot of "stuff." We couldn't go on expensive vacations, but it didn't mean we didn't have adventures. Life was an adventure (and still is!)
  6. They taught us to have fun. So many times as a kid in Pretoria (1974-1976) we'd go to the drive-in theater and my mom would pack a picnic basket with boiled eggs and meatballs and we'd take a Thermos of coffee or a bottle of soda and we'd have a blast at the movies. To this day, they pack picnic baskets and go to the beach and just enjoy the moment.
  7. They taught us to appreciate nature. Some of my earliest memories are of camping in the Kruger National Park and hearing the lions roar outside. We lived very close to the Kruger Park, and we often went even just for a day to drive oh-so-slowly and look for the animals.
  8. They taught us to respect others. Though we grew up during the apartheid years, my parents never used disrespectful language when referring to other people groups, and they always treated others with respect.
  9. They taught us how to cook. Both my mom and my dad can cook and bake like no-one's business. :) We rarely ate out when I was a kid, and my folks still rarely do. But eating at their home is often better than eating out in any case!
  10. They taught us to adapt well. As a kid, we moved almost every two years due to my dad's job (except for a seven-year stint in Richards Bay). Along with us, they had to make new friends, shoot new roots. I don't remember there ever being complaining about having to move again. It simply was a part of life.
  11. They taught us how to fix things. My dad insisted that we all had to be able to change a tyre on the car, and know how to do simple things like fix basic electric wiring etc. My mom taught us how to sew (though I cannot remember my brother getting those lessons--she did teach him how to iron his clothes, sew on buttons etc, though.)
  12. They taught us to save. Each of us had a savings book since we were born, and we put our pocket money, birthday money etc in our own savings accounts.
  13. They taught us to travel light. Due to moving so often, we weren't going to lug old stuff around. We had to go through and throw away/give away things we weren't using.
  14. They taught us to pack well. Despite being a family of six, we never had a van or a large car, so going on vacation (to see my grandparents) meant we had to pack light, and then packing the trunk was a science, too!
  15. They taught us to say sorry. My parents don't hesitate to admit when they are wrong and set an example of seeking forgiveness for wrongs done.
  16. They taught us to enjoy the simple things. Whether simply stopping by the lookout point in Richards Bay before church on Sunday nights to enjoy a container of milk or juice each and look at the ocean, or by paying attention to the sights and sounds around us, my parents taught us to enjoy the little things in life.
  17. They taught us that they matter to one another. When we were little and wanted to sit between mom and dad in church, they'd always say we can sit on either side of them, but not between them. 
  18. They taught us to be positive about life. Stuff happens, but you don't dwell on it. Our house was never a place of complaining.
  19. They taught us to enjoy music. Some of my favorite memories are of singalong nights with dear neighbors around our old piano. My mom still plays the keyboard, despite having advanced arthritis in her hands. It keeps her hands moving and both their spirits up!
  20. They taught us that cultural differences are to be celebrated. My dad's from an English-speaking background, my mom, Afrikaans. Fifty years ago, there were still ill feelings from the Afrikaans toward the English for the pains of the Anglo-Boer War. My parents went against the flow and chose to love one another despite their different cultural backgrounds, and though our home language was Afrikaans, my dad did all kinds of things to encourage us to speak English, too. It worked, clearly.
  21. They taught us to navigate well, even without looking. My dad would sometimes play a game with us where he'd put one or two of us in the trunk of the car (I know, I know, not something we'd do today), and we'd drive around till he'd stop and ask us where we thought we were. The prize for guessing right was simply the sense of accomplishment. :)
  22. They taught us to tidy up well. Our house was definitely well lived in, but never messy. Despite having someone who came to help clean the house, we always, always had to make our own beds and tidy up our own rooms. To this day, I cannot walk out my bedroom without making my bed--for no other reason than that it simply feels better to walk into a tidy room! Dishes were never left till the next morning simply because it felt better to walk into a clean kitchen... 
  23. They taught us good manners. When we were kids and would go for sleepovers, my mom would always ask, "Have you packed your manners?" Of course we had. 
  24. They taught us that their are consequences for not getting along. On long road trips, when we'd get feisty in the back seat, they'd drop us off and make us walk off some of our frustrations... Things were usually very peaceful in the car after a walk. :)
  25. They taught us to express appreciation. Whether writing a thank-you note, or calling to say thank you, we knew to not take acts of kindness for granted, nor take one another for granted. My dad still refers to my mom as his bride, and when were kids, my mom would put little love notes in my dad's lunch boxes!
So, mom and dad, in that spirit, thank you once again for loving one another in good times and in bad, in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, for better for worse...

Love you dearly, and I look forward to celebrating with you soon!

Life's an adventure for these two! Here's to many more happy and healthy years ahead

Thursday, January 03, 2013

It's a New Year

I was asked to write something on New Year's resolutions for A Life Overseas, a communal blog to which I am a contributor. Read here what I wrote.

2012 will go down in history as one of my favorite years: This time a year ago, I had no idea yet what would be next. But in the past 12 months, I completed my dissertation successfully, got the job with Compassion, moved to Thailand, graduated, and traveled several thousands of miles: from SA to the US, US to Indonesia, Indonesia to the US, US to Korea and Thailand, Thailand back to the US, US back to Thailand, and back to the US again, and back to Thailand, then to the Philippines, back to Thailand, and I ended the year back in South Africa.

Although 2013 won't include major milestones like graduation and an international move, it will undoubtedly include much travel. Tomorrow, I fly to India for work. Next month, I'll be in the Philippines and Bangladesh. And so continues the journey.

I've learned to travel much lighter, and my prayer is for the same to be true to my life in general: That I would continue to travel in such a way that I'm not too overwhelmed to embrace new opportunities, make new friends, see new places, take new photos, learn new words, acquire new skills, and shed more burdens that hinder me from doing the aforementioned things.

May 2013 hold amazing new opportunities for you and yours, too.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Psalm 84

I've been meditating on some Psalms recently, and remembered re-writing Ps. 84 into my own words when I lived in Kenya.

God, what joy to live in your presence,
in fact, to even have You live within me.
How I long to have more of You, LORD,
to live in a way
that my life is consumed with pleasing You
and You alone.

In Your presence, God,
even the littlest birds are safe.
They lack nothing.
They can go through life trusting you
and delighting in you.
Ah, that I may be like that:
Singing my heart out to You,
trusting you with my whole being.

Trusting You completely brings peace
even when I go through tough times,
even when I don't think I have the strength to endure.

Faith paves the road that leads to you,
that leads to complete peace,
to complete fulfillment,
to a place where I would lack nothing -
not even the strength to endure
because You are my strength.

God most high - the one and only God -
would You hear my prayer?
I approach You with my shield of faith.

Walking with You, Lord,
and knowing that You walk with me,
is far better than anything I could ever imagine.
In fact, I would rather scrub floors
knowing that You are with me
than have some high-paying job
and live separated from Your presence.

Why? Because You are my source,
my source of light,
my source of life,
my source of protection.

In You, I have found
a reason to live
and a life far better than what I could ever imagine.

If I live a life worthy of the One I host
- though I cannot do so in an of myself -
You will not withhold anything good from me!
It's hard for me to wrap my mind around that sometimes.

GOD of all gods,
my life is only meaningful
if I trust in you.

I'm heading to Manado this weekend.
Took this photo there on my last visit.
Hope to catch several of its beautiful sunsets again on this visit...

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Seeing with the Heart

"Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; 
what is essential is invisible to the eye." 
~ Antoine de Saint Exupéry, The Little Prince

Rarely do I compare. I've seen too much in life to covet what others have/do/are. Instead, when I do compare, it is with pure gratitude in my heart for the blessing of a nice home, knowing that some of my friends around the world live in mud huts with wooden shutters, entire families crammed into small spaces

Likewise, I often stop and thank God for running water, for stable electricity, for warm water in my shower, for simple things like markets where I can buy meat and not have to slaughter things myself, for peace, good health, good roads, for the blessing of a great education, for a relatively easy life.

I am content, and it is my nature to seek to find the beauty in every season and in the small things around me.

But today, I caught myself wondering how it would be if my life were like that of some of my friends.

The thought was so foreign to me that it felt uncomfortable and nauseating.

I was at the home of a new friend, and from my cozy corner of the room, I so appreciated the warmth and the beauty of my surroundings. I felt so at home. Much like the homes of my closest friends, it had overstuffed furniture, warm paint colors, beautiful decor. I could smell the hot apple cider. Everything whispered, "Welcome!"

Totally out of the blue, I caught myself wishing that I had a place like that, complete with a husband and children, and a hammock in the back yard.

It was the most bizarre feeling, and a very uncomfortable one. Not because I cannot envision myself with a family--I consider myself happily single, and am thankful for the opportunities I have had in life precisely because I don't have a family to consider or a home to take care of. And though I would love to share life with an amazing spouse, I'm simply not waiting for him before I start having a blast!

The discomfort of the moment came because for a moment, I felt so utterly ungrateful for the incredible ways in which God has blessed me--and thankless I am not! I wouldn't trade my life for someone else's, even if it comes with a cozy home and family.

And so, tonight, as I process the events of the day, I am thankful once again for prompting of the Holy Spirit to pause long enough to take a closer look into my heart and to walk out the other side, filled anew with gratitude for the multitude of gifts which make my life uniquely mine--including insights into the harder side of life.

Friday, October 26, 2012

I had a farm in Africa...

OK, not really, but I do love that line from Out of Africa. "I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills..."

Actually, my favorite quote from the movie is, "If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me? Will the air over the plain quiver with a color that I have had on, or the children invent a game in which my name is, or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for me?"

Beautiful, isn't it? And not entirely what this post is about.

It's midnight here in Chiang Mai, and I quickly rinsed out my water bottle to fill it up and keep it by my bed for the night, 'cause it's hot out here, and I have been mindful of drinking several Camelbakfulls of water every day, especially now that I exercise regularly. (That's worthy of an entire blog post.)

We cannot drink the tap water in Chiang Mai. Instead, one gets water delivered to your home, either in 20 liter jugs, or by the crate. I get two crates every other Monday. I simply leave the empty crates by my open gate, and at 7:45 sharp, a truck pulls up. One man swoops up the crates of empty 1-liter bottles while another carries two full crates to my front porch, where I leave the money: a full 54 Baht ($1.80) for 40 liters of drinking water.

I don't bother bringing the crates into my house, as I don't like clutter. So the crates remain outside, and I bring in just a few bottles at a time.

But on this balmy Thai evening, I had to step out to get some water, and it hit me: The smell of the village cows in Kenya...

See, I live in a part of town that's a bit more rural. Though it's still Thai suburbia, there are several empty lots around where neighbors keep cows and chickens. There are also several creeks where snakes and frogs coexist (though not necessarily peacefully), but at least I don't smell them. I can smell the cows though, and at midnight, at the end of a gorgeous day that topped at mid 90s (34C), the smell hangs thick in the air.

It made me think of the village and its smells.

And it made me smile.

'Cause some of the smells I'LL never forget might not be those of the cows or the dusty roads, of the first rains or of corn roasting on open fires. My favorite smell of my time in the village happens to be the smell of clean children.

In 2005, with Samwel and Kipkurui.
I literally can smell the Tiptop
when I look at photos like these...
After taking cold showers, the children would slather on a gobful of Tiptop (Vaseline/petroleum jelly) onto their faces, their short hair, their arms and legs. They'd literally shine from head to toe! And when I'd go read bedtime stories to them and answer their endless questions, I'd get hugs from big and small, tuck in the littlest ones before tucking their mosquito nets under their mattresses, and I'd walk back to my house smelling like Tiptop, which I didn't mind at all.

Even now, when I look at photos of the children in the village, I can smell Tiptop.

And though I don't wonder for a moment if the children have invented a game with my name in it, I do know that they remember me, just like I remember them. They're forever part of me, as I am of them, even while I live on the other side of the globe.

For that, I am thankful.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Feeling Normal

Tonight, I felt oh so normal! It was the first night I went out socially in the 3 months since I've lived in Chiang Mai, not counting the women's prayer group I joined 2 weeks ago, and not counting the dinners I have had with coworkers (which have been delightful, I should add.)

I describe myself as an "outgoing introvert," so I don't have a problem connecting with people. However, in Chiang Mai, it's been challenging breaking into the community. I have found that surprising.

But a few weeks ago, at church, a Kiwi lady came up to me and asked if I were South African. I looked South African to her, which I find rather funny. I'm not sure how we look... She had wanted to hear if I would be willing to connect with another South African who had recently been in an accident here.

I never got to meet the South African person, but the Kiwi and I got together for coffee, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I was sad to learn that she and her family were going back to NZ at the end of this year, but appreciated her reaching out to me regardless. She's the one who connected me with the women's prayer group, too, and who invited me to her birthday bash this evening, where I met many other foreigners.

I always, always value having local friends. But I also know the importance of having some friends who understand the joys & challenges of cross-cultural living. And so, I enjoyed meeting other foreigners tonight, and to meet the husbands of the ladies from our prayer group.

But a few encounters from the evening had me wondering if I'll ever really fit in with the foreign community here. Maybe I don't want to. I just want some friends with whom I can laugh, share some meals, and process learning.

Little by little, oh-so-slowly, that is starting to happen through the mix of community from work, church, and through friends of friends. And little by little, I'm starting to feel a bit more normal.

And for that, I'm thankful.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

An Invitation to Change Lives

Yesterday morning, I found myself sitting around a table with three somewhat-elderly men and one lady, making small talk about India. They were interesting individuals, to say the least. The men took turns to tell me about this place or that, about the energy of "mother India," of visiting different ashrams, or traveling with an "enlightened individual."

We were in the waiting area of the Indian Consulate in Chiang Mai, applying for visas to travel to India. They were certain that my life would never be the same again after visiting India later this year.

"What will you do there?" they asked, echoing the question I had just been asked during my visa interview.

"I am going to meet colleagues. I want to go and see the work they do and get to know the individuals whom I support in their work," I explained.

"What do you do?" they were curious to know.

"I work for Compassion International," I explained. Their faces registered nothing. And so I continued, "We work to release children from poverty through child sponsorship projects. We have centers where the children come after school for extra tutoring. They are given food and education and a chance to get ahead--chances that those living in poverty don't usually have."

The men were curious about our work and asked more. They were all devout Buddhists and wanted to know if ours was a religious organization. "We're Christian," I answered with a smile.

"Hmmm," the one man said. "So you just work in Thailand and India?"

"Oh, no," I smiled. "There are 1.3 million children in 26 countries who are being sponsored through Compassion. And my role is with the other end of the spectrum: Many of these children not only complete school, they go on to attend universities through our leadership development program. We offer scholarships but also additional curriculum to equip these young men and women to transform their nations."

"You like what you do," the oldest of the gentlemen observed.

"What's not to love about working with a program that has such a profound impact on people's lives?" I responded just as the receptionist called me to collect my receipt.

What I said to my fellow travelers couldn't be more true. I do love working with an organization that cares enough to step up and say no to the injustices of poverty.

We don't present wealth to be the goal. Instead, Compassion has a saying that "the opposite of poverty is enough." Poverty, Compassion's president Wess Stafford describes, is "a lack of hope."

I've seen that in the lives of people living in abject poverty around the world. I saw it the first time I met the Sifuna family in Kenya. But bit by bit, as the children were rid of the jiggers, and as their father not only got sober, but put his faith in Jesus, and as the children joined classes at the local school, all decked out in uniforms, I saw hope start to grow in them.

A former colleague recently told me that he went to visit Silas Sifuna, and that Silas proudly told him how amazed he is that "these four children who run around speaking English and are getting a good education are mine."

Though Compassion is not yet working in Eldoret, I (along with two friends in Iowa) am most certainly continuing to sponsor the Sifuna childrens' education and meals through their school. But there are so many more kids around the world just like the Sifunas: Kids who are desperate for someone to give them a foot up in life, that someone will give them hope.

Would you please prayerfully consider sponsoring a child through Compassion?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


I was told we would meet with a key leader in the Cambodian church today, a certain Pastor Barnabas, a man many simply call Lokrou, or Teacher. I had no idea who he was, but knew I had many questions to ask him so that I could fine-tune my training of Thursday afternoon.

My two colleagues and I, as well as two other pastors sat down over coffee and Barnabas' smile blew me away. A colleague who worked closely with this man 20 years ago, when the UN intervened in Cambodia, commented on how young his friend looked, and asked what his secret was. Over the next several minutes, the pastor shared about the way God has blessed him with a wife who takes good care of him, how they eat well, drink lots of water, how they laugh a lot. He spoke with so much love and tenderness of this woman. "How did you meet?" I asked, not knowing what I was in for. Barnabas started sharing with me a bit of what he calls his "colorful story."

He was born into a devout Buddhist family and lived at a temple, where his uncle, a monk, took care of him. He knew the Buddhist scriptures well and even emceed many of the large chant gatherings with monks and novices. But in his 20s, during the war in Cambodia, he became a fervent Communist. He was sent by the Communist Party to spy at a Christian gathering where the speaker asked, “Who, created the lights we see in the night sky? Who made those we do not see? Who holds our planetary system—a system far more intricate than the traffic here in your beautiful city—in perfect order?” Says Barnabas in his book, "In the silence I realized I was holding my breath, longing for the answer. I completely forgot my mission. I forgot to scrutinize the crowd, to locate the leaders near the front and write their names. I forgot everything but this question: Who created me? And could I, could I really know this alleged Creator? For the first time in my life, the beginning—of the earth, of life, of my life—mattered to me. A split second of common sense was all it took to debunk my naïve Darwinism. I soon understood that a loving Creator God was behind all of the precision and beauty of life."

Shortly after, he met a man who asked him whether or not he was a believer. Barnabas answered, "Yes," and the man encouraged him with words that would sustain him during the four years of Pol Pot's rule, when the despot and his Khmer Rouge soldiers systematically tortured and killed more than 2 million Cambodians. Barnabas spent those four years in a prison camp and mentored younger believers to plant churches. He was one of just 200 Christians who survived the camps, but told us that the words from the man years before carried him through many difficult times in the prison camp: “Brother, you will never be sorry! You have made the greatest decision you could ever make.”

After the time of the Killing Fields, Barnabas met his wife, a woman four years his senior. As he shared, however, of some of the challenges after the prison camps, and how he got to a point where he tried to take his own life and how God spoke to him through a vision while he was dying from poisonous plants he took, both he and I had tears rolling down our faces... God spared his life and he ended up being a pillar in the Cambodian church.

But he also spoke of division among what he calls the first generation of Christians, of the second generation, young men and women whose parents were killed by the Khmer Rouge and who became foster children of the government, of the arrogance of that generation, and of the third generation who were born after the Killing Fields, and how many of them are driven by money. He shared of the persecution he experienced at the hands of the Church for the music he composed--hundreds of Cambodian hymns that were sent to the churches along the borders. He told of many other trials and tests, and all along, I sat there thinking, "God, what do I have to share with this group? I have nothing to offer them." Yet I know that I know that I know that being here today is an assignment from God, that it is meant to be something far bigger than I so that I can never say, "I taught them."

Tomorrow, Barnabas will take us to some of the outlying areas where we will meet rural church pastors. And I will still seek to know what it is that God wants me to share during our time on Thursday.

After our time with him this morning, though, my colleagues thought it would be a good thing for me to visit Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, also known as S-21, one of many prison camps of the Khmer Rouge during Pol Pot's 4-year rule so that I would have a greater understanding of the background of the church in Cambodia and the history of the group I will be addressing on Thursday.

During the hour or so on the grounds of the former high school, I saw sights that I cannot imagine I'd ever forget. Some of the emotions were similar to what I experienced when I visited the Kigali Genocide Museum in Rwanda. "How can people be so cruel?" I kept wondering. In some ways, the events in Cambodia were worse than in Rwanda. Here, it was stretched out over four years. In Rwanda, everything was over within 100 days. But then again, how can I even contrast the events?? Genocide is genocide. It is merciless. Evil. Satanic. And yet, in both places, there are people who survived. People who have risen above the ashes of history and embraced a higher calling.

I am humbled by the fact that I will have time with three generations of pastors affected by Cambodia's Killing Fields. God knows what our time together on Thursday is supposed to look like. Right now, I don't. I wish to be nothing more than a facilitator and have them be the ones to come up with strategies for the way forward, for how they can mobilize the fourth and the fifth generations of Christians in Cambodia.

So help me, God.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

"Rethink possible."

I was on a call with AT&T in the US tonight regarding my iPad data plan, which I had forgotten to cancel when I left the US earlier this week. The were very kind and reversed the auto renewal charge without any hassles. As I was holding, though, their phone service announced all kinds of services and then said their slogan: "Rethink possible."

Earlier today, I had such diverse experiences of people rethinking possible. Or not. I had taken a trip just 5 miles or so south from where I live to a village called Baan Tawai. This village has a lot of carpentry shops. I walked from one small stall to another, looking for a bookshelf and some bedside tables. Everyone was very helpful, and I finally found what I wanted at one place where, when I asked if they had bedside tables in the same stain as the bookshelf (my office will double as my guest room), they promptly offered to stain/paint the bedside tables in the same style as the shelf. Great! They'll deliver everything to my home by Tuesday. That's customer service.

After that, I drove to "Index," an IKEA wannabe store. I've not been to Index yet as I had been told their furniture breaks within months of purchase. But I've not been able to find a comfortable office chair so far, and I thought Index might be my last option. I found a chair that would suffice, and was promptly told they can deliver it next month. "When next month?" I enquired, realizing that July starts this weekend. "At the end of next month. There is a waiting line." "Is it on back order?" I enquired. "No, we have stock," the manager told me, "but there is a line for delivery." I must've looked really perplexed, so the clerk and the manager conferred in Thai, then said, "If you have a car, you can take it yourself today." The problem is that I have a really small rental car, and the chair wouldn't fit along with other things I had in the car, so I said I might come back. It was clear that customer service was not very important to Index if they made customers wait for up to a month for deliveries!

I went downstairs to have the other things rung up. Having just paid for my bookshelf, I didn't have enough cash on me and handed the clerk my VISA card. She shook her head and said, "No credit card." This is a HUGE store, so the fact that they don't take credit cards was a bit puzzling. I was about to just cancel my entire purchase when I asked, "Do you have an ATM?" "Yes. There!" and she pointed me to an ATM. Like her colleagues in the office chair department, this clerk didn't think twice to say, "Sorry, we don't take VISA, but there's an ATM right there." What's more bizarre, after I returned and paid cash, I saw a little American Express sign. I enquired and found they do take AmEx... I left perplexed by the culture at Index not lending itself to staff thinking of solutions to problems. At Baan Tawai, the vendors, most likely either the owners of the stores, or dependent on commission, were willing to figure out ways to meet the need.

The experience at Index left me a bit frustrated--just a good dose of culture shock, really. So when I got home and unpacked 3 new boxes that arrived this afternoon with little things like my 3 favorite fridge magnets, my favorite table cloth that I got with my first paycheck in college, a small pillow my friend Nan had made me, and pillow cases my friend Mary had quilted for me, the boxes felt like a hug from God, as if to say, "I've got you covered, OK?"

Most things about moving to yet another culture, another language, another worldview is old hat to me. But there are moments when something silly like the poor service at Index just drives me up the wall, and I, myself, have to find a way to rethink possible.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


This week, since I was already in Asia for meetings, I stopped by Chiang Mai to try and find a rental home and get a feel for the city which will now be home, to see what's available in stores and what I'd need to bring over with me. I didn't expect to find a rental property this week. I looked at several places. Some small, dark homes. Some new places in brand new neighborhoods (including one with not one blade of grass--the entire yard had been cemented). Nothing that I felt I absolutely loved.

But then my realtor took me to this modern, 2-bedroom home in the south side of the city, and I fell in love. 
I like that the home has a small garden. I like that it has a covered parking space and a privacy wall. I love the front porch and the large glass doors that allow in a ton of light! I love that the home is raised, eliminating any risk for flooding (though I'm told the river on this side of town doesn't flood)
I love that it has light floors, adding to the airiness of the home. I love that the living area is open with no walls between the living room, dining room and kitchen. I love that there are blinds rather than dark draperies. I like that the place comes furnished. I love that the two bedrooms have ceiling-to-floor built-in closets. I'll turn the one room into a study yet have enough room for guests. I also like that the home is not in a neighborhood with just foreigners, but that all of my neighbors are Thai. (In case you're wondering, the people in the picture are my realtor and the landlady's parents)
I really like the modern bathroom with its treated cement walls.

I knew I wanted the place, but needed to think things through a bit, talk to friends rather than just to the realtors. What I didn't know was that the house had only been listed for rent the previous day, and that I was the first person to view it. I also didn't know that a guy was coming right after me, and that he would commit on the spot to rent the place for 6 months, starting next week...

The next morning, when I asked the realtor if I can meet the owner, she texted, "Sorry, the place has been taken." "That cannot be," I immediately thought. "It's mine!" So the realtor asked me to call the owner and visit with her.

Turns out that if I'd take it starting June rather than July, she'd let me have it. Her parents, who were at the home during the viewing, had recommended to her that she pick me rather than the guy since they said I looked friendlier, and it looked like I really liked the place. Plus they thought that I'd take better care of the home since I'm a woman. ;) She had several inquiries about the house even while we were meeting on Friday. I was VERY fortunate to get the place!
I also was able to visit some shops and markets, and of course I love that Chiang Mai has wonderful tropical fruits, including lychees (which I've eaten a ton of this week) and mangoes, some of my favorite fruits. Smoothies, anyone?
So, now I have a rental home in the southern suburbs of Chiang Mai. Tonight, I fly back to Bangkok and travel onwards in the morning to Seattle. My graduation's next weekend. I'll be working remotely from Seattle this week, then head to Colorado for corporate orientation. I come back to my new home later in June, and look forward to that!